About the Church
Grundtvig’s Church was built in memory of the priest, hymn writer and educator Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872).
His significance for Denmark was so great that he simply had to have an extraordinary memo-rial. It was not until 1912 and 1913, when two competitions were held for proposals that the architect Peder Vilhelm Jensen Klint (1853-1930) came upon the idea that the right memorial had to be a church. His project was chosen among numerous statues, memorial columns and architectural de-signs, even though it was calculated that it would cost twenty times more than it had been intended to collect for the purpose.
Should the church be located somewhere in Copenha-gen, or in Herning, Kolding or at Dybbøl Banke, which was at that time south of the German border? The decision fell on the then unpopulated Bisbebjerg Hill, where it would form the centre of a new district in Copenhagen. The inten-tion was to combine bright, airy surroundings with low-cost, high-quality homes built in yellow brick and red roofs for the working classes. Jensen Klint designed the outsides of the homes closest to the church so that they would fit in with architecture of the church. Clear sight lines from dif-ferent angles converge in the church as the focal point.
The foundation stone was laid in the southwestern corner of the church on Grundtvig’s birthday, 8th of September 1921. Five masons built the tower, which was temporarily inaugurated on 11th of December 1927. Then four or five masons joined in. The pulpit still remains from that time. The brick floor of the tower is different from the tiled floor in the rest of the church, which was inaugurated on 8th of September 1940. Jensen Klint died in 1930, and the Church was completed by his son Kaare Klint, who also designed the large pulpit, the altar, the chairs, and the small organ on the northern wall. Kaare Klint’s own son, Esben Klint, in turn designed the large western organ and the chandeliers. The funds for the building were collected from all over the country and from Danes living abroad; the government doubled the amount collected, so that the church belongs to all of the Danish people.
The church is a combination of a medieval rural church from Zealand with its battlements and a Gothic urban church with its pillars separating the nave and the side aisle. The barrel intersecting vault and the tower at the western end of the main aisle are common to both types. The size, however, is that of a cathedral. The style is Jensen Klint’s vert own, with extensive use of Gothic elements such as pointed arches and the use of daylight to define the interior as a sacred space. Jensen Klint strove to achieve the greatest possible simplicity, and like the medieval master builders he integrated a number of simple numerical ratios that pro-vide the inside of the church and the building as a whole with a sense of harmony that is easy on the eye.
It can be seen in many ways that Grundtvig was the inspi-ration for the church. The simple bricks are humble, eve-ryday building materials, but when they are built to form such dizzy heights, they unite the heavenly and the worldly just as in Grundtvig’s hymns. The light from the high win-dows fills the room and plays on the lightly coloured walls, giving the inside of the church an atmosphere as a sacred space. The darkness of the vaults tells you that God cannot be described in words.
The building is divided into three parts, with the body of the church in the centre, below is the crypt, like a kind of folk high school in Grundtvig’s spirit, and from the tower with its broad views you can supposedly see the cathedrals in Roskilde and Lund, where Absalon (Grundtvig’s distant uncle) was a bishop. Almost five million high-quality, light-yellow bricks were used, delivered in straw from brickworks in Blovstrød and Ruds Vedby, both on Zealand. Only standard bricks were used, albeit of the highest qual-ity, but in many places, they were cut into a specific shape and were polished to produce the silky surface that reflects the light so beautifully. The solid pillars are made of bricks throughout, each comprises an average of more than 30,000 bricks. The red roofing tiles come from various brickworks in Northern Zealand. The Church is considered to represent the height of Danish masonry.
The church is the size of the cathedral of Copenhagen and has 1,440 seats. The tower is 49 m high and stands on a hill that is 31 m above sea level. Its internal length is 76 m, and the vaults reach a height of 22 m. Furnishings: the font made of Faxe chalk was shaped by Jensen Klint in the form of mussel shells, as both the mussel shell and the number 8 depicting its eight sides are old baptismal sym-bols. The seven-branched candelabrum on the altar has the same form in Jensen Klint’s other churches: Vodskov Church (1909). Anna Church in Copenhagen (1914), Gedser Church (1915) and Fredens Church in Odense (1920). The two large tin candlesticks on the altar were de-signed by Kaare Klint and Mogens Koch. Both organs were built by Marcussen & Søn in Aabenraa. The northern organ (1940) has 14 stops, two manuals and a pedal. The western organ (1965) has 55 stops, four manuals and a pedal. The largest of the 4,052 pipes is 11 m long, weighs 425 kg and is the longest orang pipe in Scandinavia. The model ship is the biggest in Denmark; it is called “Queen Alexandrine” and is a four-masted bark. The crucifix in the porch was designed by Jensen Klint and formed by his daughter, Helle Bentsen. The church model in the same place dates back to 1916. There do not appear to be any pictures, but the church itself is an image of the Kingdom of God in the Heavenly Jerusalem, and numerous pictures are created for the eye within as the congregation listens to The Living, Spoken Word during a church service.
An illustrated brochure, postcards etc. can be bought in the church .
Thomas Viggo Pedersen